A Long, Long Way from Pluto


We have passed the half way of this year and considering what we have gone through so far, one hopes that the year would end sooner than expected. But before that, when it comes to the topic of science and space, 3 things would have made the year 2015 very sweet indeed.

One would be the NASA spacecraft New Horizons

NHHopkinsPoster_posterSize

(Poster source: http://www.theplanetstoday.com/)

The spacecraft which had reached the planet Pluto (yes, it is a planet) is now one of the fastest man made craft with relative velocity of 49,600 km/h – the record is still held by Voyager 1, currently traveling at 61,720 km/h relative to the Sun. And frankly speaking Pluto never looked so beautiful before this and with radio signals taking four and a half hours to travel between the spacecraft and Earth, the spacecraft can only transmit data at 1 to 2 Kbps, which means that the transmission of all data (for last 10 years) will require sixteen months (source: Wikipedia).

And that 16 months is only on the download of data and not excluding the months, even years of data analysis. And if you had watched the documentary on New Horizons, the journey to Pluto is no small feat either – the journey itself took almost 10 years (to be more accurate – 9 years, 5 months and 25 days) and a journey of 7.5 billion kilometers and avoiding the various mechanical and debris that could have disabled the spacecraft on the spot.

This mission was a big success indeed and that is not the end of the story

Gladman said the chance of it visiting a third object after that is “pretty slim” as the density of objects in the Kuiper Belt falls off further away from the sun. However, there is one last thing scientists hope New Horizons will explore — one of the boundaries of the solar system.

The boundary of the heliosphere is where the sun’s magnetic field and solar winds lose their power. New Horizons is expected to reach that boundary in about 20 years, with a much more complete set of instruments than the Voyager 1 spacecraft did when it hit the edge of the heliosphere in 2013. While many of Voyager’s instruments had failed by that point, Green says, New Horizons’ instruments are “very healthy” and are expected to be able to take very good measurements of the solar wind as it exits the heliosphere.

(Source)

The next thing that is going to make this year really, really sweet is the next installment of the Star Wars and one that brings back very familiar faces (we will miss Master Yoda though).

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is expected to hit the local cinemas sometime in December 2015. It is set 30 years after the events in the Return of the Jedi. I am huge fan of Star Wars franchise and even though I missed watching the original movies in cinema, I made sure I watched them again when George Lucas released them again – the special edition ones. I lost count the number of times I watched the first Star Wars movie – probably more than 50 times over the years. And I have done the same for all installment of Star Wars movies todate. It is going to be the same coming December.

And finally, the discovery of Earth 2.0

earth 20 large

(Image source: NASA)

With more discoveries that we expect to make in the near future and planned man journey to Mars, we are going to have very interesting time sending spacecrafts and understanding of the universe.

Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered “the closest twin to Earth” outside the solar system, NASA announced on Thursday.

Working off four years’ worth of data from the Kepler space telescope, researchers from NASA, the Seti Institute and several universities announced the new exoplanet along with 12 possible “habitable” other exoplanets and 500 new candidates in total. The new planet, named Kepler 452b, is “the closest twin to Earth, or the Earth 2.0 that we’ve found so far in the dataset”, said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for Nasa’s mission directorate.

The research suggests 452b has five times the mass of Earth, is about 1.5bn years older, and has a gravity about twice as powerful as our own. About 1,400 light years away, Kepler 452b orbits a star similar to our sun, and at about the same distances as Earth orbits the sun, meaning it has a similar length year and exists in the “habitable zone” where liquid water can exist on a planet.

(Source)

I too have been traveling lately but I did not miss catching up on the latest on the scandal involving Najib & his wife (yes, the one who admitted that the account that had RM2 million belonged to her). Some politicians are claiming that it is nothing but attempts to bring down a democratically elected government. But seriously think about all the nonsense that the current government have done when it comes to management of taxpayers money and you will seriously doubt it’s innocence.

To be frank, there have been too many smoking guns – from Sarawak Report, the Edge, WSJ, opposition politicians and even from the Task Force themselves and one cannot simply ignore it. After all, despite of all the very damaging expose, Najib or his wife have yet to bring any civil suit against Sarawak Report, the Edge or WSJ. The request for information on the WSJ was rebuked by WSJ by asking the lawyer acting for Najib to go and read themselves the articles which they say is “self explanatory”. One only have to say “ouchhh!!”. There was plenty of psychological warfare at both ends and to some extent it did create plenty of confusion. There were even 2 bankruptees in the picture.

However, the fact that Najib & Rosmah neither denied that the accounts belonged to them or took swift legal actions, this seemed to imply that the allegations may not just be allegations. One just hopes that the investigators are hard at work to bring to bring out the truth. After all, no one is above the law.

And the latest expose came from The Edge and the media statement from the publishers of the The Edge nails the aspiration of the people who are tired with the rampant daylight robbery and abuse of taxpayers money & trust. Read the main report here

And for those people who like to use the Non Malays (especially the Chinese) as the bogeyman for all things wrong in this country, you need to re-read the media statement again and again to know that it does not matter if you are a Malay, Chinese, Indian or others, we are all in the same boat and in the same situation. We can close one eye to it and wait for it to come back and bite us on the back or take proactive action and this includes reading and getting all information in place and when the time comes to pick the right people, make your vote count for the right reasons.

And as expected, the reaction from the Government was lame and predictable. A number of people who had reported and questioned on the dealing have been barred from leaving the country and possibly under investigations themselves, possibly for conspiring to topple a democratically elected government under section 124 of the Penal Code. And The Edge now faces 3 months suspension for reporting on the 1MDB:-

A letter from KDN stated that the two publications’ reporting of 1MDB were “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or likely to alarm public opinion or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest”.

Failure to stop publication for three months will result in the withdrawal of the publishing permits, the KDN letter said. The Edge Media Group publisher and chief executive officer Ho Kay Tat expressed disappointment with KDN’s decision.

“We don’t see how exposing the scam to cheat the people of Malaysia of billions of ringgit can be construed as being detrimental to public and national interest,” said Ho. “This is nothing more than a move to shut us down in order to shut us up.”

(Source)

One have to wonder how one topples a democratically elected government or prejudicial to public order & security to by exposing what went wrong and who did wrong. Which is of the two the bigger evil – this needs to be answered.

And that reminded me of the movie “Sivaji The Boss” which I saw back in 2007 and saw again last week on my flight back. The opening scene is the hero is led to the prison by the police and with the face hidden and amidst huge protest from the public and anger from corrupt politicians & businessmen. In the prison cell, the man in the next cell asks why the hero is in the prison. He ask if the hero had murdered anyone or whether he had cheated the public or whether he had taken sex movies and released them in the internet. The hero will say no to all three suggestion. The man then ask why he is in prison then. The hero will say that he had try to do good for the public. The man then says that the hero deserves to be in prison.

We are going through the same predicament and one just hopes that Malaysians have a clear mind on what need to be done for the country and clean up the system from down to top and not be influenced or involved in cheap politics by people with wrong agenda and purpose. One case stupidity in play was the recent riot at Low Yat. It had nothing to do with race but a small incident of crime unfortunately turned into a major fiasco.

We already missed to boat for a developed nation by the year 2020. It probably will take another 50 years to make this dream to come true.

We already placed the wrong priorities on learning Mathematics and Science by not teaching them in English

We already thinking very little on national unity and the riot at Low Yat simply enforces that notion that people in this country remains divided on petty things

We already ranked up one of the biggest financial scandals in the country’s history and yet no one had resigned or made accountable (despite arrests and travel bans)

This country and its people deserves something much better than the sickening and cheap politics and scandals after scandals. We as humans are making good ways in science and space and this year alone, we had made big leaps in this area. But unfortunately we had hardly moved from our narrow minds in this country. There is a rule of law in this country and adherence to good governance and uploading of fair treatments for all. We may have lost out in picking the right people to administer this country in the last general elections but it should not stop us from making the right decisions in the next one. The country’s good name have taken a good beating in the last 2 years and it has seen it’s share of tragedy which included lost of 2 planes. It’s time to make things right and put things in order.

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Snippets – 15 May 2015


myvi

(It is indeed a tragic when an infant dies due to another road user who cared less of the safety of others but other than feeling sad & saying our condolences, what we are doing to ensure another person does not dies in the same manner? Image source: the Net)

Couple days ago, we celebrated Mother’s Day in a big way, thanks to my cousin who organised it. We grouped all the “Moms” to a corner and had the oldest – my grandmother (my mom’s mom) to cut the cake. It was memorable to see the grand lady leading the pack of moms in the celebration.

And whilst the ladies had their own activities, the guys had their own – drinking cold ice beer whilst catching up on the latest news on work, economy, politics, travel and on other times we had been drinking. It was something that I missed in recent times especially when everyone been so busy with their own family and work. I lost count of the cans of beer that I had but it was one of the few nights that I really had a good night sleep. And I did not have any hang-overs in the morning as well. I felt very fresh and was all ready to go to work.

And I think everyone deserves a good night sleep with the confidence that the country is in safe hands. Unfortunately it is not. The truth is the country is in a big bloody mess and we have a Prime Minister who is not only clueless but also thinks that a few show of support from his usual ball carriers means the whole country is squarely behind him. There was a big hoo-haa when Tabung Haji bought over the 1MDB’s land for a value that is much higher than what 1MDB paid for. But that is still fine, property price over time and with improvements made on the land, the price may have appreciated. But that is not why people got pissed off in the first place.

The real reason why people got pissed off was the fact that the people who was involved denied it at first until the evidences started to appear on the internet. Have they forgotten, these days, information flies faster than speed of sound and all information is available at one’s finger tips.

Anyway, as I had said, the country is in a big bloody mess and politicians are still trying to hide the crap under the carpet. And one is going to indulge the many reporting on 1MDB recently, it is going to be a never ending story. And despite the reporting and promises to “get to the bottom” of it, no one been caught and brought in for questioning. Even the fat guy is less worried and is on a shopping spree (hopefully with his own personal money)

One just hope that my fellow Malaysian will still remember this when it comes to the next general election. No matter what kind of “I help you, you help me” promise of better roads, sacks of rice, new schools, donations, new bridge or new houses pledged, it should be the last time that we want to allow something similar to happen again. It will take probably years to clean up the current mess.

Let come back on something that worth a good read and in a way inspirational – thanks this post:-

At the primary school level, up to UPSR, the Tamil schools are scoring the highest grades for science and mathematics. They are even beating the Chinese schools. They have left the sekolah kebangsaan behind. (Sekolah agama, sekolah pondok semua tak payah sebut lah ok.)

And now the Tamil schools are getting into the top league in the UPSR exams. As an example, for 2014 the SRJK (Tamil) Taman Tun Aminah in Johor Bharu produced the best UPSR results in Malaysia. 43 students scored straight 7-A’s and another 43 students scored 7-B’s. Another Tamil school in Johor the SRJKT Masai has also been hitting the big leagues in the UPSR.

(Source)

Whilst I admire and respect the good people behind ASTI (they are doing the right things at the right rime), the fact is there is still an imbalance of how we educate our kids as whole.

Tamil schools despite their shortcomings in terms of logistics and space is doing well due to their teachers and school administrators. And I am sure every types of schools have their own elite accomplishments and directions. For that, I salute them. It is not easy to achieve those things when your hands are tied. But in the end, it does not and will never represent unity. We are still segregating kids by the race, language and perhaps how much money their parents have in their pockets.

Of course, politicians and national policies plays a big role here. But they can only do so much. The other one third need to come from the schools & teachers themselves (as how the Tamil schools have been doing remarkably) whilst the remaining one third is from the parents. Failed to do your duties in any one of them and you will end up with a kid that weak in the command of the language (the one and only English) and subjects that matters most in the new millennium- Science and Mathematics.

No idiot is going to allow you to fly to Mars based on your qualifications in religion (we already having weird revelations in that area). We need more rationale and scientific thinkers in our society.

Then we had the tragic incident of the 2 MYVI drivers who have been “allegedly” racing and ended up causing an accident that killed an infant and her two parents. Whilst the MYVI driver have been hauled up for investigations and will probably be charged for causing death from reckless and dangerous driving which may see the driver jailed between two and 10 years, and be fined between RM5,000 and RM20,000 if found guilty, here’s the sickening part of the whole affair – there is no effective way of booking the drivers who speed on the road.

Still remember AES? Still remember the bunch of morons from the opposition who made so much noise that the Government decided to hold back the wider implementation of AES? The end result of this – death of an infant.

And if the Government promises a better enforcement (as they usually do whenever they have dead bodies on the road), save the trouble – it is not going to happen. They have been saying the same thing on the express buses and motorcyclists without helmet & license but nothing have changed so drastically.

We need to cut to the chase and implement measures that will see a stricter enforcement of the traffic laws and stick on the implementation even if there are unreasonable “noises” questioning the need for such measures. We need to make Malaysian roads safer than ever. After all aren’t we among the top 25 most dangerous countries in the world for road users. It is something we should not be proud off.

Next Stop: The Red Planet?


Read these as well:-

Given the state of the country as at now, you can safely say that when we celebrate the year 2020, this country would not have achieved the status of a “developed country”. So Dr M’s Vision 2020 will remain a vision and will not become a reality, at least in 2020.

For one, religion had taken precedent in key areas of the country and have caused a mismatch of priorities. Instead of us busy with human resource development and preparing the country for a “developed” status, we are busy on which law to use and how holy or religious one must be. And I saw this in play when I went to a shopping complex one fine day and decided to drop by a bookstore as my son wanted to buy a science book. We walked around and realised that there was more books on religion than on science and mathematics. I was hardly surprised – there were more people at the religion book section than at the science & mathematics book section.

Vision 2020 is also doomed to be nothing but fancy slogan because we still place high importance on racial based policies (we still calling ourselves as Malay, Chinese, Indian, etc instead of Malaysian) and on cheap politics. But come year 2020, all is not all lost though. Year 2020 would mark the start of activities that would eventually place humans on the planet Mars by year 2026.

Imagine a human colony on another planet and we don’t have to look another 100 – 200 years for that. We will see that in the next 10 years and it is very exciting news indeed. The company that is taking the exploration one step ahead is Mars One – is a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands that has put forward plans to land the first humans on Mars and establish a permanent human colony there by 2027.

NA_384397_MADD_mars

(It may not look much now but imagine a lot more people on the surface and with high end technology which allows them to come back to the Earth and back to Mars again? Image source: Mars One)

It may sound far fetching at first and Mars One have been on the receiving end of many as nothing but a scam. Some even question the USD6 billion budget of sending humans to Mars but remember India sent its spacecraft to Mars for mere USD73 million. But think of the feasibility. Think of the possibility.

Mars One lists out the mission feasibility of a human colony in Mars in the following manner:-

Permanent settlement

The Mars One crews consist of people that want to settle on Mars. Absence of a return mission reduces the mission infrastructure radically. No return vehicle, return propellant or the systems to produce the propellant locally are required. Permanent settlement also reduces the required technology development; vehicles that can take off from Mars and return to Earth are currently unavailable and untested. Since the vehicle returning to Earth and the accompanying systems are mission critical for a return mission, they will also require backups adding to the infrastructure that needs to be delivered to Mars. More importantly, to attain a somewhat acceptable risk level, the return mission would need to be tested in a complete unmanned return trip before the first crew even departs the Earth. Even after a full test of the return system is successfully performed, the risk for a crew that will ride the first return rocket would be very high: 126 rockets launched from Earth since 1990 failed to deliver their payloads in the correct orbit.

Permanent settlement also solved the challenge of the astronauts entering into Earth’s atmosphere after having spent about two years in reduced or zero gravity environments.

Use of In-Situ resources

Mars has resources that can be used for a sustainable settlement. Water is present in the soil and can be made available to the settlement for hygiene, drinking, and farming. It is also the source of oxygen generated through electrolysis. Nitrogen and Argon in the Martian atmosphere can be mined to be the inert part of the atmosphere inside the habitat. Martian soil will cover the outpost to block cosmic radiation. Carbon dioxide can be taken from the atmosphere if the plants take in more than the humans expel.
The systems to mine water from the soil and to mine Nitrogen, Argon, and Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere have never been tested in space. Mars is however not space because there is gravity and a thin atmosphere. Additionally, the processes are all more than 100 years old. The water can be collected from the soil by breaking up the soil with a drill and harvesting the resulting debris. Argon and Nitrogen can be collected from the atmosphere by removing the Carbon dioxide through a phase change.

Solar panels

The Sun is a reliable, robust, and plentiful energy source. Using solar panels is the best choice for Mars One since it takes away the requirement to develop and launch a nuclear reactor, thereby saving time and money while avoiding the risks and concerns of the use of a nuclear power source.
Thin film solar (photovoltaic) panels will power the Mars One settlement. These are less efficient than those more commonly used in aerospace, but have the advantage of being extremely light, and are thus easily transportable. The first settlement will install approximately 3000 square meters of power generating surface area.

Existing technology

No new major developments or inventions are needed to make the mission plan a reality. Established suppliers can build each stage of Mars One mission plan. While most of the components required are not immediately available with the exact specifications, there is no need for radical modifications to the current component designs.

Every effort was made to design the mission with as little complexity as possible. The choice to send permanent settlers removes the need for a heavy lift launch vehicle, which does not currently exist. Permanent settlement makes the landing module small enough to land with current technology. A pressurized rover will not be sent to Mars until large enough rockets exists. No water recycling in the transit habitat will be present because the trip to Mars takes only 210 days. Instead, all required water is stored in tanks that also function as radiation shielding. Storage of waste that is not easily recycled is available in the settlement until more technology is available.

(Source)

And just look at the number of people who shown interest in the Mars One project:-

Mars One applicants come from over 140 countries; the largest numbers are from the United States (24%), India (10%), China (6%), Brazil (5%), Great Britain (4%), Canada (4%), Russia (4%), Mexico (4%), Philippines (2%), Spain (2%), Colombia (2%), Argentina (2%), Australia (1%), France (1%), Turkey (1%), Chile (1%), Ukraine (1%), Peru (1%), Germany (1%), Italy (1%) and Poland (1%).

(Source)

The first 3 nations are well known for their eagerness and competition in space exploration. Out of the three, US and India already have rovers and space crafts orbiting Mars. And I am pretty sure the Chinese will do so soon as well although these guys are busy exploring the moon (hmmm, they know something we don’t?). And Malaysia is involved in Mars One in 2 areas – our own Angkasawan, Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor is an ambassador for Mars One and three brave explorers from Malaysia including a woman.

SPACE: India Mars mission

(It’s only cost USD70 million to launch a space craft to the Red Planet. Trim down the money spent on wars, religion conflict and corruption and you can send hundreds of the space craft to many part of the solar system. Image source: engtechmag.wordpress.com)

Mars One is an one way trip as there is no way (presently) to bring the space explorer back. The environment is harsh and there is no guarantee, despite the mission feasibility, that the colony will succeed, especially when the next human civilization is million kilometers away (230,000,000 km to be exact) and in case of emergency, one cannot simply dial up 999 and ask for help. Rescue mission if it is to be done, will take months to prepare and execute and by then, any rescue mission would have been redundant.

Mars One itself can go bankrupt and may not be able to bring the next set of explorers to add to the colony. Anything can happen. After all, it took a lot of research, time, risk and money to send man to the moon, so what more another planet and that too for one way trip. But there are good reasons to make this trio to Mars, namely:-

To give our kids new Hope, careers and Dreams — beyond merely surviving in a world of growing terrorism, more “police state” responses, with increasing resource and energy scarcity ultimately leading to endless global wars

By finally opening up unlimited solar system resources — be it exotic fuels, new planetary minerals or endless solar energy – dramatically alter the “have not” competition between the First and Third Worlds here on Earth … the ultimate source of increasing global terrorism

By greatly accelerating these radical technologies — from “black” energy systems and propulsion to autonomous robotics, from desktop “super computers” to their ultra-broad band communications (essential to conducting “routine operations” on the Moon and Beyond) – dramatically accelerate overall national and global productivity, with startling increases in GNP and GWP

By federally subsidizing the creation of a whole new generation of consumer industries — through pioneering a literal “Second age of Space” — dramatically increase the historical “return on investment” from past NASA spending … from 23 to one to more than 100-to-one; thus, for every billion dollars invested in this New Space Program, over a hundred billion will return to the national and world economy

By finally providing accessible new sources of raw materials and energy “off planet,” processed in lunar and orbital industrial facilities, naturally reverse over a century of planetary degradation and pollution … including global warming

By accelerating fundamental solar system exploration with human beings, return equally fundamental, radical scientific information – ranging from comparative planetary data which will assist preservation of the Earth’s environment through new space installations, to answers to the origin of the human race itself

(Source)

Yes, money and human resource is important but aren’t we been busy wasting them on wars, corruption and wastage as well. Save up on those and you will plenty for the science exploration, I am sure.

Many of us, including myself are from the generation that grew with science fiction movies like Star Wars and Star Trek. Still remember ” to boldly go where no man has gone before”? It is in our nature to explore and find new worlds and the more we explore, the more we will push the boundaries of technology, science and human endeavor. And there is the prospect of rich natural resources that could be mined for humans (there was even plan to start a mining colony in the moon).

For those reasons alone, Mars One mission should succeed.

Rendezvous with a Comet


Here’s one reason why religion should never drive a country’s future.

Religions, yes it is important to ensure we have some sense of humanity & morality (if you must) but what should drive us to the future must be high grade technology, space exploration, open minded and a great sense of adventure.

Watch this and be amazed!

And the making of…

This post is for my son who’s ambition is to be a great scientist!

Confirmed, No KitKat for SP


Read these first:-

Sigh, it was not a big surprise though…

Seeing how other (newer & higher model) Sony models are getting their firmware updates to Android KitKat but not the Xperia SP, I had long suspected that Sony in the end will not deploy Kitkat to SP model. And today my suspicion has been confirmed:-

Sony Mobile has this morning confirmed that the Xperia SP will not be upgraded to Android KitKat

(Source)

Not that I am desperate for an upgrade to Kitkat as the Jelly Bean v4.3 works just perfectly and handles my usual use of the phone without any problems. But if I decide to move on to Kitkat in the near future, all is not lost as I still would have an avenue to update Xperia SP to Kitkat via CyanogenMod (details here)

But not at the moment…

Hong Kong: The Home of Efficient Public Transport


Read these first:-

Kuala_Lumpur_LRT_Monorail_Map

(Comparatively Malaysia is not far from a very efficient public transportation system and with further extension to the LRT lines and the upcoming MRT lines, one hopes that it will close the gap in the current system. Perhaps we can learn one or two things from Hong Kong.  Image source: Google)

Well, I don’t know it made one of the best first impressions – perhaps it is because I have not taken a public bus in Malaysia in a very long, long time (and I still don’t) and seeing an empty, new comfortable bus made me in love with the idea of taking the bus again or perhaps because of this:-

Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private transport. Over 90% of the daily journeys are on public transport, making it the highest rate in the world

(Source)

I just came back from a short trip to Hong Kong and one of the thing that catches my eyes when we had touched down and exited the airport is their public transportation.

The Hong Kong International Airport itself was impressive although it was not in anyway better than our own KLIA (it was way too crowded compared to KLIA too). The airport is well connected by train (which includes their superb Airport Express), buses and taxis, very similar to KLIA. Instead of taking the obvious option of using the Airport Express, we opted to take the Airport bus instead to the city. One of the colleague had a hotel reservation made and we could get off nearer to the hotel if we take the bus instead of the train. And it was cheap too – HKD40 for one way trip to the city centre (the Airport Express using the Octopus card costs HKD100 per trip).

We were tired and despite taking the bus, it was very comfortable and we managed to catch a short nap along the way. From the bus stop, we had to walk to the hotel and after one of my colleague had checked in to a hotel, the rest of us decided to take the taxi to our apartment (another 30 minutes ride and cost us HKD41 for 3 of us and a couple of large luggage bags). The driver hardly spoke English but he understood where we wanted to go but what struck me immediately was there was 3 seats at the front which was not a norm but I guess no one dares to sit on the middle seat. Not when the taxi driver was wearing shorts.

Walking around the apartment residential area is a breeze and it was a good chance for me to lose some baggage around my waist. And we did walked a lot here – good thing I brought my sports shoe along. There is no any MTR (mass transit railway) station near the place that we were staying but they do have others namely bus, tram and of course, the iconic red color taxi.

bus2

bus1

(Our option for public transport – the double deck buses. We took one from the Airport and so is the inter-city buses)

To move around, I would strongly suggest to get the Octopus card (we got ours at the airport and used it for the bus from the airport). Same thing with our Touch n Go card here and one can recharge the card at the numerous 7-eleven shops for free. The bus station is just about 100 metres from the apartment. The tram station is a bit further and we decided not to take the tram in the morning. It is slower and does not have air conditioner. The bus on the other hand is far more comfortable and it is very, very efficient. And since the bus stop near the apartment is just the 3rd bus stop on the bus lane, we always can find an empty seat during the rush hours.

And here’s one reason I respect the Hong Kong commuters – they queue up to take the bus. Yes, there is a queue line on the pavement to ensure everyone know where to queue up but I have also seen the same discipline of queuing up when they are waiting for the elevator. Something that is grossly missing back here in Malaysia. Here, even before the people come out from the lift, those who were waiting for the elevator would simply rush in. They won’t even queue up but instead crowd around the entrance. Same un-civic attitude can be seen when one waits for the bus. The crowd would rush in and would be pushing and pulling to get onto the bus. Not a big surprise considering how they jump queue on the road. Nope, not here. Everyone waits and everyone gives way.

And Malaysia should introduce double deck buses – it’s way too cool than the single deck Intrakota buses we have in Malaysia (it is even worse with the old crappy, dirty Metro bus). It takes more passengers too. I have experienced taking the double decker bus when I was in Singapore but it was not a good experience, mainly because it is usually full by the time it reaches our bus stop. The top deck is only allowed for sitting passengers and the driver that I saw in Hong Kong made sure of it (he monitors via a CCTV).

And they always say that public transport is a money losing business and that it is why it is run by the Government. But back in Hong Kong, it seems to be a different story:-

Is this problem intractable? Not exactly. Take Hong Kong for example: The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation, which manages the subway and bus systems on Hong Kong Island and, since 2006, in the northern part of Kowloon, is considered the gold standard for transit management worldwide.

In 2012, the MTR produced revenue of 36 billion Hong Kong Dollars (about U.S $5 billion)—turning a profit of $2 billion in the process. Most impressively, the farebox recovery ratio (the percentage of operational costs covered by fares) for the system was 185 percent, the world’s highest. Worldwide, these numbers are practically unheard of—the next highest urban ratio, Singapore, is a mere 125 percent.

(Source)

Which is true if you consider on how the transportation system is integrated in Hong Kong – there have a number of major terminals where the MTR, bus and taxi have their main stations in one place. This is something we need to consider very seriously here in Malaysia.

As I had said, we rarely took the MTR – there is none near to our apartment and the one we took was when we were going to the Times Square for shopping. So, when it was time to fly back, I decided to take the taxi to the Hong Kong station (where the Airport Express train departs). It was a short ride and the driver dropped me off at the entrance. The Hong Kong station is located quite close to the Central MTR station and allows passengers (for certain airlines) to check-in (similar to facilities in KL Sentral). I already checked in online and since I only had a small luggage bag to bring along, I proceeded to the escalators to the platform. The Airport Express is a dedicated train from the city to the airport very much the same as our KLIA Express and it is indeed fast, clean and comfortable. It costs HKD100 for one way trip from the Hong Kong station to the airport.

Out from the MTR station, it was just a short walk to the check in and baggage drop counters. It was a nice thing although I experienced the same queues and stone faced officials at the immigration counters. Sometimes certain things never changes.